HAYDEN, Idaho, April 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- James Hobart, Co-Owner of Alpaca Direct, was honored to testify in the US Senate on the challenges and opportunities of small businesses in rural America. He shared his experience as a small business owner in North Idaho and how he and his wife transformed their daughter's 4H project with pet alpacas into a thriving 'Click and Mortar' business offering over 3,000 products and serving over 100,000 customers in 30 countries.
Mr. Hobart shared how his company has used the Internet and social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ to stitch together a modern 'Click and Mortar' business. They rely on web search advertising and social networks to find customers who are interested in their products and start conversations with them to better understand their needs. Today's advertising platforms like Google AdWords, and Facebook allows them to be very specific in utilizing their advertising dollars and measuring the Return on Investment on their marketing efforts.
He described how they use YouTube and Facebook videos to share knitting techniques and product reviews with a global audience. "There are many places all over the world that don't have a local yarn shop. We want to become their local yarn shop even though we're based in Northern Idaho. With online social tools, we can do that, and they have become part of our community," states Kelley Hobart, the co-founder of the company.
Mr. Hobart listed two key challenges facing small businesses like Alpaca Direct: Improved internet access and affordable healthcare for his employees.
He shared with the senate how the on-ramps to the digital highway need more access for rural areas. His shared how his competitors in larger cities are operating on the equivalent of a 12-lane freeway while his company's access to that freeway is a like a worn-out toll road, with potholes maintained by a single-source provider with little incentive to make improvements. This limits his ability to live-stream store events with his customers and limits their engagement with Alpaca Direct. He shared a vision where soon remote customers will be able to virtually walk through their store and virtually shop as if they were actually in the store. He shared how experiences like this will soon become a differentiator for his ability to deliver a competitive service.
He then turned to Healthcare, and mentioned the issues around high costs and limited access along with hope that congress will pass healthcare legislation that is more accessible to small businesses.
Mr. Hobart then acknowledged that many entrepreneurs have realized the world is flat and they can run their business from where they want to live, not where they must live. In his case, he and his wife discovered Coeur d' Alene, Idaho on vacation back in 2005 and left Silicon Valley for a simpler life and a more efficient place to run his business. He mentioned the Innovation Hub established in downtown Coeur d' Alene and how local leaders are making his town a magnet for innovators in technology, artificial intelligence and robotics.
The senate committee was very receptive to comments from Mr. Hobart and the other two witnesses asked to testify. The Senators explored feedback on possible new legislation that would collect sales tax on internet sales in all 50 states and how that would impact small businesses.
Mr. Hobart thanked committee chairman Senator Risch from Idaho for being a staunch supporter of small business and ranking member Senator Jean Shaheen along with the other senate committee members for their support of the hearings.
About Alpaca Direct
Alpaca Direct (www.alpacadirect.com) is a fast growing "Click and Mortar' retailer launched out of Silicon Valley. Now located in Hayden, Idaho, USA the site website is continuously updated to provide a world class user experience and offers a wide range of high quality Alpaca apparel, yarn and gifts.